Saturday, Sept. 22, 2001
Sunday, Sept. 23, 2001
Earlier this week, Afghanistan's Taliban government said it would require some evidence of Osama bin Laden's guilt in last week's terror attacks on the U.S. before it would agree to turn him over to U.S. authorities. Though this is standard in any extradition procedure, the Bush administration immediately balked at the suggestion. Today came what could mildly be characterized as a change of heart. Secretary of State Colin Powell vowed that the administration would soon "put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case that ... it is al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, who has been responsible.'' Appearing on Meet the Press, Powell said "I think in the near future, we'll be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linkng him to the attack." Powell promised that "his [bin Laden's] guilt is going to be very obvious to the world." The Taliban's ruling clerics, meanwhile, have agreed to ask bin Laden to voluntarily leave Afghanistan, though they now say he cannot be found.
Besides the administration's caving in on the question of evidence, this weekend also saw some remarks from those in the "President"'s inner circle that further feuling the concerns previously expressed in Left Hook! that the present mobilization of men and material is little more than a showpiece in a new War On Terrorism, modeled on the War On Drugs. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "Is it likely that an aircraft carrier or a cruise missile is going to find a person? No, it's not likely; that isn't how this is going to happen." Rather, "this [the administration's plan] is going to happen over a sustained period of time because of a broadly based effort where bank accounts are frozen, where pieces of intelligence are provided, and where countries decide that they want to change their politics.'' Powell, in his television appearances this morning, was toning it down, too: "Let's not assume there will be a large-scale war. I don't know that we should even consider a large-scale war of the conventional type."
The airline industry got its bailout Friday; $5 billion in handouts and $10 billion in loan guarantees approved by congress.
Monday, Sept. 24, 2001
A dark cloud hangs over the United States. It's called the War On Terrorism, and, today, we were allowed a glimpse of how it is to be conducted. The House Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the Bush administration's "emergency" counter-terrorism package, and while Attorney General John Ashcroft's dissembling and nonsensical appearance was televised, Republican committee members, like roaches scurrying from light, ordered cameras removed from the hearing when a subsequent panel of civil liberties experts were brought in to testify against the administration's designs. Along with any sense of propriety, this blatantly violated House rules, which state that “whenever a hearing or meeting conducted by a committee or subcommittee is open to the public, those proceedings shall be open to coverage by audio and visual means."
It only took a day for the Bush administration to once again flip-flop on the question of providing something in the way of evidence of Osama bin Laden's guilt in the terror attacks upon the U.S. After yesterday saying, in the strongest possible terms, that very convincing evidence will soon be forthcoming, Secretary of State Colin Powell this morning had this to say, when questioned about it: "Most of it is classified, and as we look through it and we can find areas that are unclassified and it will allow us to share this information with the public, we will do so. But most of it is classified." Not a full retreat; not very encouraging, though.
Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001
As close to an admission of the truth as we're likely to get from the Bush administration on its proposed "emergency" anti-terrorism package:
"There is no absolute guarantee that these safeguards would have avoided
the Sept. 11 occurrences. But I believe these are each constructive, valuable
tools in the fight against terrorism."
--Attorney General John Ashcroft, yesterday
before the House Judiciary Committee
The "President" today visited with employees of the FBI and continued his dismal practice of reducing the situation to the level of a professional wrestling match, reaching, perhaps, his lowest point yet:
"I see things this way: The people who did this act on America, and who may be planning further acts, are evil people. They don't represent an ideology, they don't represent a legitimate political group of people. They're flat evil. That's all they can think about, is evil. And as a nation of good folks, we're going to hunt them down, and we're going to find them, and we will bring them to justice. Ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice. And I don't care how long it takes to rout out terrorism, we're going to do it. We will take the time and effort and spend the resources necessary to not only find these who -- these evildoers who did what they did to America on September the 11th, this is a larger campaign against anybody who hates freedom, anybody who can't stand what America and our allies and friends stand for."
"I believe the evildoers miscalculated when they struck America. They thought we would shy away. They thought their threats could hold this nation hostage. They must have felt like they could diminish our soul. But quite the opposite has taken place. They've strengthened the spirit of America. They have united their country. They have awoken a mighty nation that understands that freedom is under assault; a mighty nation that will not rest until those who think they can take freedom away from any citizen in the world are brought to justice. They've got a problem on their hands. We're going to find them. And if they're hiding, we're going to smoke them out. And we'll bring them to justice. And not only will we bring them to justice, we will bring those who harbor them, who hide them, who feed them, who encourage them, to justice. America is a nation built upon freedom, and the principles of freedom, the values of freedom. And this is a nation that will not--will not--blink from the fight. This is a nation that will stand strong for the great values that have made us unique."
On the administration's "emergency" anti-terrorism package:
"I hope Congress will listen to the wisdom of the proposals that the Attorney General brought up, to give the tools necessary to our agents in the field to find those who may think they want to disrupt America again."
Bush flatly lied about one of the most notorious proposals in the package:
"We're asking Congress for the authority to hold suspected terrorists who are in the process of being deported, until they're deported. That seems to make sense -- (laughter) -- that if a suspected terrorist is detained, and our nation has decided to deport the person, then they ought to be held in custody until the action actually takes place. We believe it's a necessary tool to make America a safe place. Now, this would of course be closely supervised by an immigration judge. Now, the only alternative is to let suspected terrorists loose in our country. I don't think anybody wants to do that. (Laughter.) I certainly hope not."
Actually, the "suspected terrorists," under the administration plan, aren't "in the process of being deported" at all. They're simply individuals--aliens--whom the Attorney General has "certified" are suspected. This "certification" is entirely arbitrary, with no judicial review, and there is no requirement that the government provide any evidence that there are even reasonable grounds for suspicion. Those so designated can be held indefinitely, without ever seeing any "immigration judge" until--or unless--deportation proceedings are initiated.
And, of course, there was more of the inarticulate doublethink for which Bush has become particularly renowned:
"I want you to know that every one of the proposals we've made on Capitol Hill, carried by the Attorney General, has been carefully reviewed. They are measured requests, they are responsible requests, they are constitutional requests. Ours is a land that values the constitutional rights of every citizen. And we will honor those rights, of course. But we're at war, a war we're going to win. And in order to win the war, we must make sure that the law enforcement men and women have got the tools necessary, within the Constitution, to defeat the enemy."
On an incredible vote of 398-17, the House of Representatives today approved an equally incredible military spending bill--$344 billion worth.
"Moving to repair damage to Muslim sensibilities, the Pentagon changed the code name of its military buildup to 'Operation Enduring Freedom.'
"The change was made after the initial name -- 'Operation Infinite Justice''
-- last week ran into objections from some Islamic scholars on grounds
that only God, or Allah, could mete out infinite justice in their view."
--from Reuters today
Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2001
Monday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the administration's proposed "emergency" anti-terrorism package was open to the public, and, like all such public hearings, was also open to television coverage. After Attorney General John Ashcroft's appearance, however, a subsequent panel made up of civil libertarians appeared to testify against the administration's proposal, at which point the staffers for the Republican committee members ordered cameras removed from the hearing in direct violation of House rules. MSNBC, which was virtually alone among the corporate press in reporting this incident, has now rewritten the story in which it was recounted, eliminating any reference to it! No explanation is offered for this by MSNBC.
Here's the complete text of the original portion of the story dealing with the incident, the part which was left on the cutting room floor during the subsequent rewrite:
COVERAGE OF HEARING RESTRICTED
After Ashcroft finished speaking, committee Democrats called civil liberties and free-speech advocates to testify, including representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way, which have echoed some of Conyers' concerns.
But while Ashcroft's testimony was open to television cameras, the committee's Republican staff ordered camera crews to leave, including those of C-SPAN, the public interest network available on cable television systems nationwide, NBC News' Mike Viqueira reported.
Print reporters and members of the general public were allowed to remain, meaning the speakers' comments could be reported, but none of them would be available for Americans to see or hear for themselves.
House rules state, "Whenever a hearing or meeting conducted by a committee or subcommittee is open to the public, those proceedings shall be open to coverage by audio and visual means," Viqueira reported.
As insidious as the removal of this portion of the story is what was put in its place:
A CONSERVATIVE COMPLAINT
“Sharing information from criminal cases to intelligence, military and immigration authorities ... risks violating the principle of keeping the military out of civilian law enforcement and risks violating the privacy of persons under investigation,” she said.
A conservative Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, complained Monday that the Bush administration was trying to hurry its proposals through Congress without allowing members enough time to weigh their merits.
He suggested the Justice Department was trying “to take advantage of what is obviously an emergency situation to obtain authorities that it has been unable to obtain previously.”
Despite the criticism, Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., indicated Tuesday that he agreed with many of Ashcroft’s proposals and would continue to work with him on crafting acceptable legislation.
For instance, Leahy and Ashcroft agreed on the need for more Border Patrol agents to be stationed along the U.S.-Canada border.
“We are working on plans to help provide greater security for our northern border, which has become a transit point for several individuals involved in terrorism,” Ashcroft told the senators.
This gives the impression that the conservative Republicans--the faction which created and is backing the anti-terrorism package--are the ones speaking up for civil liberties, while the liberal Democrats--who are largely opposed to the package--are the ones pressing for it! This alone would be an outrageous mischaracterization; as a replacement for a section wherein it was documented that the Republicans had expelled cameras from the hearing upon the arrival of the Democrat-imported civil libertarians, it's an outrage. An exercise in pure propoganda, for which heads should roll.
Monday, Howard Kurtz, in his Washington Post column, reported that ABC, in sharp contrast to the other networks, "has barred its journalists from wearing lapel flags..." ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schnieder explained the policy to Kurtz:
"Especially in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to remain as objective as possible. That does not mean journalists are not patriots. All of us are at a time like this. But we cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol."
This has caused quite a stir among conservatives this week. Fox News, the plaything of longtime Republican campaign hatchet-man Roger Ailes, has been among the media outlets to take ABC to task for its policy; Fox News, it seems, now prefers it's role as propogandist for the state without the base hypocrisy of a false pretense of "objectivity." If so, this would represent a sea-change at the network, which has traditionally provided reactionary claptrap under the moniker "Fair and Balanced."
Thursday, Sept. 27, 2001
Friday, Sept. 28, 2001
There's been an interesting dual development with regard to President Bush's less-than-stellar performance during the initial hours of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
As the attacks were occuring, Bush, in Florida at the time, opted to fly to Louisiana then Nebraska, rather than return to the capitol immediately. This, which looked to all the world as though the President had gone to earth in the face of a crisis, has been, to date, the most widely criticized aspect of Bush's handling of the situation. The official story which subsequently emerged was that a threat to Air Force One had been phoned in, accompanied by secret code information that convinced presidential security it was genuine--they kept the President from returning to the capitol for 10 hours as a result.
This week, two newspaper columnists have been fired, both apparently for criticizing Bush's failure to immediately return to the capitol.
Columnist Dan Guthrie, who, for 10 years, has worked for the Daily Courier of Grants Pass, Oregon, was given his walking papers after writing a piece in which he said Bush, when faced with the attacks, "skedaddled." He praised the passengers who resisted the terrorists on one of the flights, their efforts apparently resulting in the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, instead of its intended target. "Against their courage the picture of Bush hiding in a Nebraska hole becomes an embarrassment." The Daily Courier apologized for the Guthrie column.
Tom Gutting of the Texas City Sun got the axe upon writing that President Bush, after the attacks, "was flying around the country like a scared child seeking refuge in his mother's bed after having a nightmare." The Sun's publisher wrote both a front-page apology for the Gutting column and an editorial entitled "Bush's Leadership Has Been Superb."
These incidents, as horrific as they are by themselves, are particularly ironic now; this week, it was revealed that the alleged phone threat to Air Force One never occured at all. From CBS News Tuesday:
"There seems to be an answer to how someone, presumed to be a terrorist, was able to call in a threat against Air Force One using a secret code name for the president's plane on the day of the attacks. As it turns out, that simply never happened. Sources say White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail."
The venerable Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting has reviewed network news coverage of the administration's proposed "emergency" counter-terrorism package and found it lacking. "Despite the magnitude of the changes the bill proposes, a search of the Nexis database of news transcripts shows that neither CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News has aired a single report exploring the legislation's potential impact. ABC World News Tonight has aired one." See their full Action Alert on the matter here.
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